Maris Morton's debut novel, A Darker Music was released this year.

I’m right in the thick of NaNoWriMo – where writers all around the world are working away feverishly on their computers to start and finish a 50,000 word novel for the month of November.

It’s the first I’ve done it and it’s a blast. Through NaNoWriMo Warriors, I’ve met so many wonderful writers from all over the world and been reminded that writers come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and ages. It has reinforced for me the fact that you’re never too old, too young or too ‘anything’ to write In fact,  the only thing stopping me writing is “me”.

For all my NaNoWriMo friends, this post is for you – it’s about perseverance, love of writing and never letting go of the dream.

Recently, I attended the SCBWI Conference in Sydney where there was a discussion about the fact that teen writers like Steph Bowe and Alexandra Adornetto are breaking into the publishing scene and having a great deal of success.

I say, all power to them. I also say that it doesn’t matter what age you are, you are never too old to write a great novel, short story or whatever you set your mind to.

Which is why I wanted this post to be about saluting Maris Morton, the inaugural winner of the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize. A Darker Music is Maris’s debut novel and at 72 she is seeing her dream of becoming an author realized.

The CAL Scribe Fiction Prize attracted 534 entries with the eldest aged 90 years, 22 entrants born in the 1920s and 64 in the 1930s.

Maris says

“Winning the CAL Scribe Prize has made what seemed to be an impossible dream come true. I’m still pinching myself. Winning has given me an added incentive to go on doing what I love best: telling stories.”


1. Maris, what inspired you to  write A Darker Music and can you tell us a bit about the  process?

Once, a long time ago, when I was living in a country  town in WA, I heard a woman say that she’d been a violinist before she maried  a farmer, but didn’t play any more as her instrument had been accidentally  smashed. The idea sat in the back of my mind for a long time, as I imagined  the dreadful loss this could have been. Then, after I’d invented Mary Lanyon,  the thing began to come together. As I researched both music and the merino  business, the story finally came together.

2. What did you enjoy most about writing this  book?

I enjoy the  research as much as the actual writing; I’ve always loved learning. As the  characters come to life on the screen it’s easy to get carried  away.

The hardest thing was cutting stuff out.

3.  What prompted you to enter it in the Scribe Fiction prize? Do you  have any tips for new writers thinking of entering writing competitions?

Yes: Do it! After getting rejections  for my proto-novels, I tried writing short stories and even poetry, and  entering competitions. After winning a few, and getting things published, I  felt encouraged to press on. I entered the Scribe Fiction Prize without  expecting, or even hoping, to win it.

4. I heard that this novel  took twelve years to write. Do you have any tips for writers about  persevering? How did you stay focussed on your story during this time?

During the 12 years since I began the  first draft of my first novel I’ve worked on four others, so it hasn’t been a  matter of staying focussed on any one. As soon as I’ve finished one story I  get right into the next one, without waiting for the inevitable rejections.  They say it takes ten years to learn a new skill, so one must be patient, and  persevere.

5. Mary Lanyon is such a well crafted character. Did  you base her on somebody you knew? Can you give us some tips on how you create  characters in your stories?

Mary shares my love of gardening and  cooking, but she’s her own person. I started inventing her a long time ago,  and she’s still evolving – as we all do. Some of my characters are total  inventions, dictated by the needs of the story, but others are cut-and-paste  jobs, taking bits and pieces from people I’ve met or know well. I usually base  their appearance on someone real. Speech patterns are another thing that I  base on real people – it’s important to get the rhythms and vocabularies right  for each character.

6. Some writers worry that if they are not published by the time they  are fifty, it will never happen. Do you have any advice for them?

My advice would be to stop worrying  and keep writing, if you really love it. If you don’t, forget it, and take up  bridge, or something equally absorbing.


I have to tell you I loved Maris’s novel, A Darker Music. It’s beautifully written and the  prose is as evocative as the music theme that runs through the book.

When Mary Lanyon takes on the job of housekeeper at Downe, a famous Merino stud she discovers a number of secret threads behind Paul Hazlitt and his prize winning fleece. Mary soon develops an empathy with Paul’s estranged wife, Clio and the reader is quickly drawn into their growing relationship.

Clio has just returned from a serious operation in Perth that her husband seems to know nothing about, and as her health continues to deteriorate, her bond with Mary deepens.

Curious by nature, Mary wonders what could have happened to cause the rift between husband and wife and why did Clio give up the music that meant so much to her?

With its unique setting , carefully drawn characters and well kept secrets,  A Darker Music is a really compelling read.

I found myself willing Clio to pick up her Viola again and march off into the sunset, leaving behind her uncaring husband and ambivalent son.

It was difficult not to feel sorry for a woman who had undergone so much tragedy in her life and yet Clio is not a person to wallow in self-pity and this just serves to endear her more to the reader.

As Mary slowly unravels Clio’s secrets, she reveals some of her own and it soon becomes clear that her own marriage to the irresistible but now deceased Roy was far from perfect.

In an isolated existence where it’s hard to find kindred spirits, Clio and Mary form a bond that helps them overcome ghosts of the past and learn important things about themselves and each other.

I found Maris’s story truly inspiring. I hope you did, too.

If you have a story of writing perseverance that you think might encourage others, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy writing and NaNoWriMoing:)



  1. This post brought a tear to my eye, Dee. The book sounds wonderful and Maris’s story is truly inspiring.

    You’re never too old while the brain and the imagination still functions. 🙂

    As one of that cheery band of global writers on NaNoWarriors, I’m adding my happy-writing-day wishes too! 🙂

  2. Oh, good on her , I say. I hope she continues to write novels and have success with them well into her second century. She’s a shining symbol of the word elder not meaning’ past it’.
    I love inspirational stories and, this one has made my day. I particularly hope it gives a bit of a nudge to the elders of the writing community, you all have so much life experience to draw on for your writing.Exploit it to the max!!!!!!

  3. Great to read more of the background to it. I reviewed this some time ago on my Write and read with dale blog and had a lovely email in response from Maris. I’ve since given the book to a friend to read and she also loved it. It was a worthy winner

  4. BIG CONGRATS, Maris! You are such an inspiration. Great post, Dee – I often wonder what the heck I was doing starting to write for children in my 40s but the rewards have been worth pursuing the dream. Age is certainly irrelevant.

  5. Definitely an inspiring post! thanks Maris and Dee. After recently being described as a regional Gran in regards to my writing, its great to turn literary expectations upside down!

    Looking forward to reading this novel.

  6. Hi Lorraine,

    You have definitely turned literary expectations upside down, Lorraine and all power to you. For any of my o’s friends, Lorraine just won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for her wonderful verse novel, Star Jumps. Go Lorraine, your writerly friends are so proud of you.


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